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King Wants To Sell Out Ham Radio 309

An anonymous reader writes "Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has introduced HR 607, the 'Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,' which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation). The bill would create a nationwide Public Safety broadband network using the so-called 'D-Block' of spectrum in the 700 MHz range for Public Safety use. But to pay for it, he wants to sell off 420-440 MHz, currently heavily used by the military, satellites and Amateur Radio operators."
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King Wants To Sell Out Ham Radio

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:43PM (#35446240)

    Laugh at the old Ham guys all you want. When a real disaster hits and the infrastructure goes down, I bet you'll be going to them and asking for their help.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#35446328)

      Laugh at the old Ham guys all you want. When a real disaster hits and the infrastructure goes down, I bet you'll be going to them and asking for their help.

      Yeah .. but when the world ends [], that will result in sending submarines to San Diego to track down morse keys that are being randomly tapped by coke bottles hooked into window shades that are blowing in the breeze

    • While I agree with you, I think you missed the parent poster's joke. Of course, that makes the non-trivial assumption I understand the joke.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by devleopard ( 317515 )

      We are so dependent on infrastructure, if we reached that level of disaster, I don't think it'd be a master of "asking" for help.

      Reminds me of a client, whose former programmer was a conspiracy theorist. He was stocking up seeds, because he was convinced the economy was going to fail and seeds would be the new currency. However, he was also a pus^H^H^H^H pacifist, and didn't believe in owning guns. If it all hit the fan, the people with the guns would take his seed, one way or another.

      tl;dr; Your doomsday h

      • sp: "master"="matter"

      • by pspahn ( 1175617 )

        Seed stocking is more about preserving genetic variety than anything. We all know the dangers of Big Ag, yet we mock people and call them conspiracy theorists when they do something sensible and stock seeds that can grow plants WITHOUT having to spray them with some kind of activator chemical.

    • by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:52PM (#35446388)

      "I bet you'll be going to them and asking for their help."

      Dot Dot Dot, Dot, Dash Dot, Dash Dot Dot - Dot Dash Dash Dot, Dash Dash Dash, Dot Dash Dot, Dash Dot

    • by Rinisari ( 521266 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:53PM (#35446414) Homepage Journal

      If /. had upvotes, I would give you one.

      It's the HAMs -- the MacGuyvers of the radio world -- who all we computers geeks will turn to when the shit goes down. We could get packet radio up and running in days together, and have our own twitter.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:57PM (#35446490)

      I'm 26. I'm not old. Like any hobby there is a mix of old folks and young folks. Sadly us young folks are never heard about because we don't care about the politics and swap meets like the old timers do. We're also busy getting laid and whatnot, too.

      To make matters worse, the part of the spectrum that jerk-ass is wanting to sell actually doesn't affect hams too much. 420 to 440 is used for TV and satellite downlinks in the amateur community, and is not used for repeaters or simplex operations. Repeaters and simplex are up between 440 and 450MHz. Us youngin's don't care about ATV whatsoever, and no matter who sells what the satellites will still keep transmitting on 438MHz like they always have.

      While we don't care, we SHOULD care. If we let them sell this band off, they will think they can get away with selling, say, 2 meters. If we don't speak up and stop this now, there will be nothing to stop them from trying to sell off more and more of the spectrum, all for a few shiny pennies.

      KD4PYR has a script that will generate a letter that you should print and send to your representative. It is located at

      I don't know how effective it would be, but, that is the process that we're supposed to go through to tell our representatives that we DO NOT WANT what they are doing. So, tell them.

    • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @05:41PM (#35447622) Journal

      Read between the lines friend, they aren't using the Ham frequencies for emergency responders they are selling it to commercial interests which means this little congress piggy went "How much money will you give me? really? Yes boss, we'll sell you that frequency and fuck them Ham guys!"

      Sadly when just about anything gets brought before congress it was written by the lobbyist who paid senator/congressman piggy off. Hell these scumbags would sell the gold fillings out of their mama's teeth if the price was right! So I'm sorry Ham guys, but unless you can cut a better check than whatever corporate interest just bought congressman Porky you're screwed. Good luck Ham guys, you're gonna need it.

    • Hams are not [] all 'old'. (I would submit that your paradigm is old.)
  • by phyrestang ( 638793 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:44PM (#35446262) Homepage
    If they are using it so heavily, surely they won't give it up easily, no?
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Yeah, having a good answer to the standard who's-going-to-stop-me question -- "You and what army?" -- always helps ;) The army usually gets their way in congress. I found one site that listed near that spectrum:

      406-420 Military trunked systems, VA Hospitals, U.S. Postal Service, Federal prison trunked systems, U.S. Forest Service links, FBI links, Federal court house security, DEA, State Department, HIDTA, BLM links, Federal Protective Service, Weather Service links, & telemetry data.

      Since it's King p

    • by Caerdwyn ( 829058 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:53PM (#35446420) Journal

      PAVE-PAWS [] uses 435Mhz. In fact, there are regulations regarding ham use, power output, and directionality of transmissions in that frequency range by ham radio operators within 150 miles of those installations.

      No. They will not auction that off. Peter King will sit down and STFU.

  • This guy keeps getting smarter and smarter.

  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#35446322) Journal

    Peter King has struck me as one of those guys who can rationalize away everything he does. Sure, to some people, it would seem like creating a Public Safety network by hobbling the military's usage of the 420-440 MHz block would seem highly inconsistent, but not so for Peter King. Same thing with his current hearings on the how American Muslims are becoming radicalized. Some people would think that it would be highly hypocritical of him to open public hearings on radicalism in Islam considering that for decades, he was a supporter and backer of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist organization that killed 3500 people in 3 decades and were involved with Libyan terrorists funded by the Gaddafi regime. But nope, Peter King sees no hypocrisy at work.

    What an awful person.

  • by trainman ( 6872 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:48PM (#35446326) Homepage

    Well that could be fun considering a lot of the HAM radio spectrum blocks are internationally recognized and used. Go ahead, sell it off, give it to someone else to use, I'm just north of your border, and my government hasn't proposed selling off that spectrum (yet). So I'm sure the private purchases of that spectrum will just LOVE when we all continue to key up on those bands (or the satellites already in orbit continue to transmit in to your borders on those frequencies).

    Someone needs to inform this congressman of the realities of how spectrum allocation works.

  • by medv4380 ( 1604309 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:49PM (#35446346)
    First who would want to buy a spectrum that is polluted with Ham Radio Operators noise. You'd have to take all that equipment away to get them to not use it.
    Second why add this to a Broadband for First responders bill when it will mess with our existing Military infrastructure? It says to make it so they can pay for the Broadband but forcing the Military to change their equipment so someone can buy this little spectrum doesn't sound like it will make money.
    • Re:Useless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BoberFett ( 127537 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:52PM (#35446386)

      The government itself may not come out ahead on a deal like that, but I'd imagine there's a very good chance that King himself or one of his good friends would.

      • The government itself may not come out ahead on a deal like that, but I'd imagine there's a very good chance that King himself or one of his good friends would.

        Bingo. Just think of all that (now obsolete) Government equipment that needs to be replaced. General Dynamics is listed as one of his major PAC contributors (albeit at only $12,500 - representatives are pretty cheap these days). Always follow the money.

  • I'm from DC and I have many years of experience translating political statements. What he really means is "I'm currently looking for a large corporation I can kick this too and get perks in the form of lobbying, parties, comps, and a job after my work here looting the government is done. Whether it's a good thing is of little concern for me actually."


  • We've seen time and time again that the public-safety services are not themselves able to provide sufficient communications operators to handle an emergency, and that they aren't able to improvise communications systems to meet the needs of an emergency that takes out infrastructure. That's what hams are for. One of the things they do with that spectrum is build and practice their own systems, so that in an emergency they are ready.

    And let's not forget all of the technical advances that come from Amateur Radio, and its unique uses in education - how else can individuals work with space communications, software-defined-radio, etc. All of the other options are company-controlled.

    In California, we already have a problem on those frequencies due to the PAVE-PAWS system at Beale Air Force Base out by Yuba City. Surprisingly, it can receive hams in the San Francisco Bay area - on a UHF band where I wouldn't expect that distance - and we have had to reduce power on most of the repeaters in that band to protect the military's space-warning services. If the band were to be sold, it would not be available for commercial users in much of California.

    But we have a right to be sick of all of the folks who look at our frequencies with dollar signs in their eyes.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @03:59PM (#35446512) Homepage

    I'm a ham operator, although I haven't been active on the air for a long time, so my information may be out of date. This doesn't seem like a huge crisis to me. Hams currently have 2 meters and 70 cm. This proposal would take away most of 70 cm, but there would still be a lot of bandwidth left in there. Considering that the hobby is basically dying out, I'm not sure it would be totally rational to keep allocating the same amount of spectrum to hams indefinitely. Is there any evidence that in a hurricane or earthquake, the remaining 10 MHz of bandwidth would be inadequate for emergency communications?

    • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:06PM (#35446592) Homepage Journal
      It's not dying out any longer. We're heading toward having 700,000 U.S. hams due to the final elimination of the code test (you're welcome) and the fact that it's technically getting more fun due to software radio, etc. That's more than we've had in a very long time.
    • Although 70 cm isn't one of the major ham bands, ARRL views any encroachment as problematical since we are unlikely to get any new spectrum. As to the hobby 'dying out' - not really. It's changing in ways a lot of old time hams aren't happy with (sound familiar?) but it is still a vibrant and important activity.

      While the ARRL has in the past supported band readjustment, this one doesn't really pass the sniff test.
    • I'm curious why you say it's dying out?

      I actually just got licensed, and have been building the tech for over a decade. I love being able to communicate over huge distances using only what I built myself.

    • Definitely not dying.

      We have folks showing up almost every weekend to our (rather remote) testing sessions serving the mountain communities of SW San Bernardino County. We're not exactly in what you'd consider a highly populated location, either.

      LOTS of interest out there.

  • whatever it is King is proposing, it is wrong. He is just wrong about everything. Oppose him at all costs. Seriously.
  • If you are a registered Ham Radio operator, this site [] has a quick-and-easy form to generate a letter to your representative in congress to oppose the bill.

  • Some active RFID tags operate at 433 MHz [].

  • by Roskolnikov ( 68772 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:07PM (#35446598)

    Ham radio is one of the last difficult to suppress communication mediums and for some reason an attempt to 'sell' this space just strikes me as not a good for public thing.

  • Oblig Quote (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bobfrankly1 ( 1043848 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:09PM (#35446634)

    "Rep. Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has introduced HR 607, the 'Broadband for First Responders Act of 2011,' which has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which handles telecommunications legislation).

    King? Well I didn't vote for ya...

  • by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:15PM (#35446714) Journal

    All amateur radio operators reading about this should be incensed. This is a major grab of our bands for public safety and they already have a very generous portion of the radio spectrum and don't need to steal ours. They already have 450-470 as public service bands and these are only used for that in major metro areas along with 700-800 MHz.

    In 90% of the country public safety uses VHF high and low bands (150 and 30 Mhz, respectively) and that is adequate for their needs. The same is true for amateur radio with the exception of 700-800 MHz, where VHF is primarily used throughout the country and 440 MHz is mostly used in areas of higher urban/suburban density. In these areas, the 2 meter bands are saturated with large, old repeaters and the 440 MHz band is the most vital and dynamic band around, it's where the more technically savvy types tend to hang out, whereas the older systems on 2 meters are usually older folks talking about what they are dying of. Due to saturation of 2 meter repeaters there is no opportunity for growth or change there, if someone wants to put up a new system then 440 MHz band may be their only choice. Also, most of the dinosaur 2 meter machines are multi-receive site networks, and the remote receivers are linked in the 420-430 MHz band. The other service that would be mostly impacted is Amateur Television (ATV) which is mostly in the 420-430 MHz band, that would be completely eliminated.

    There is a nice website set up that will automatically generate a letter of objection, tailored to your local state representative automatically. It's nice and easy you just enter your callsign and it looks it up and generates an auto-addressed letter ready to print and sign. The link is here []. Calling all hams! This is really important, please do it today!!

  • He also wants to sell off 450-470 MHz. Among other uses, this is the band for consumer FRS radios. Just try telling the public that they aren't allowed to use their walkie-talkies anymore...

    • What company would WANT to buy that bit of spectrum for a new service?

      There are so many FRS/GMRS radios out there by now that the band may not be free from interference for decades. Most ordinary consumers aren't going to be aware that frequency allocations have changed, and will continue using their Wall-Mart walkie-talkies as they always have.

      You might as well try to repurpose the 27 MHz Citizens Band. The FRS spectrum is just about as crowded in some areas.

  • ARRL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shadyman ( 939863 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:49PM (#35447108) Homepage
    The ARRL has a page set up against HR-607 [] as well as sample letters []. Apparently, if you send them to Chwat & Co (info on previous link(s)), they will hand-deliver it to Congressional office.
  • Follow the money... (Score:4, Informative)

    by thestudio_bob ( 894258 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @04:54PM (#35447168)
    As always, the real question is what industry is lobbying King to get this spectrum. Telecom? It's a dick move, but you gotta know someone is paying good money to get this done.
  • by k6mfw ( 1182893 ) on Thursday March 10, 2011 @06:21PM (#35448046)

    Everyone loves to mention value of amateur radio when disasters strike (and yes this non-govt, non-centralized infrastructure of wireless communications is difficult to take out). What I see is a much more serious blow and that is removing the wireless "playground" for techies and nerds to do their thing. OK so many of these guys don't spend much time with girls but it is the hands-on experience of applying theory to practice, trying some different kind of radio configuration, or simply seeing what works/what doesn't work.

    Besides Marconi or Armstrong, countless engineers and other technical professionals acquired useful skills through bold experimentation to either push the envelope to develop new technologies, knowing how to read schematics and work on systems to get a reasonable paying job instead minimal wage at a retail store, or from past personal experience will know better to not accidently take down entire comm system of their employer (although it sometimes still happens).

    If we trash RF spectrum for techies to play with, we stymied personal development in wireless technologies. Not that it would be the end of everything but it will become more difficult for someone to enter that field.

    Another scary aspect is this proposal has got to be the dumbest thing ever. Part 90 users are fuming as they are having to narrowband then whammo! They gotta dump all their 450MHz gear and infrastructure, then have to start from the ground up on 700MHz. I really wonder what kind of people we have making such decisions, like they have no competent advisors.

    Now that you got me ranting about stuff, I will add only reason to move all PS agencies to 700MHz is because it is easier to organize on MS Excel. What we have here is a failure of policy makers grasping the physics of the situation.

    For years we've been hammered with "govt is bad" and "regulation is bad" and FCC being a govt agency that does regulation they inherently have two strikes as the bad guy. Then as this whole jihad against govt spending little agencies like FCC are being further reduced (look at actual fed budget numbers, you will see FCC along with NASA, EPA, Dept of Education take a 16% slice of the pie, but the big slices is never discussed). So it is not surprising FCC lacks those with technical know-how to properly advise policy makers.

    Along with other FCC mischief is the approval of mobile broadband by Lightspeed adjacent to GPS freq (there is actually intense meetings at fed agencies in Wash DC about how to deal with this).

    So be careful before getting on the bandwagon about reducing govt spending and privatizing everything, look at the rest of budget pie instead of that 16% slice. You may not like the result and it will not do much in overall spending.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell